This epidemic caused by a novel coronavirus (nCoV) was first recognized on Dec. 30 in Wuhan. This virus has now been exported by travelers from Wuhan to Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen, as well as by travelers to Thailand, South Korea and Japan. There is person-to-person transmission and, of 198 total patients, at least 14 health care workers in Wuhan have been infected. Like the two other novel coronaviruses, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome, this virus is a third cause of coronavirus pneumonia (CP-3).
China shared the genetic sequence of this nCoV (CP-3), which was discovered in record time on Jan. 7, by Jan. 12. This rapid discovery and action to share the genome of the virus should become the “new normal” for future epidemics. China could have shared more epidemiologic and clinical data earlier this month; now they are doing so under a national framework.
On Jan. 22, WHO will convene an Emergency Committee to advise whether to declare this epidemic a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. WHO has already been working with China and the world to focus on global security priorities to stop this outbreak that has become an epidemic, and perhaps a pan-epidemic like SARS coronavirus in 2003, before it becomes a worldwide pandemic. In the long run, we need to develop a universal coronavirus vaccine because there will likely be more novel coronavirus pneumonia (CP-4 and CP-5) in the 2020s.
The U.S. CDC has created a webpage with guidance for U.S. health care workers that has been updated as of Jan. 21. It provides the best U.S. resource for information on how to evaluate potential cases, how to avoid becoming infected and how to send specimens for testing to CDC in Atlanta.
Daniel R. Lucey, MD, FIDSA
Adjunct professor of medicine and infectious diseases
Disclosures: Lucey reports no relevant financial disclosures.